THE COMMANDING Officer of 45 Commando, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver Lee, whose Royal Marines are currently based in Nad-e-Ali district in Helmand Province, feels a significant step forward has been achieved early in their fourth tour of duty to Afghanistan.
The Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) has now taken over control of a checkpoint in Helmand from ISAF, in another step towards the Afghans taking responsibility for security.
For the last nine months, checkpoint Shingul, which is located in the Chah-e-Mirza District, has been manned jointly by ISAF and Afghan policemen. However, since April, members of B Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, who are attached to 45 Commando, have been responsible for the checkpoint and the development of the AUP who live and work there.
Over the last eight weeks, the Gurkhas have conducted over 100 partnered patrols with the AUP in the area, providing security and protection to the numerous villages nearby, deterring and preventing any insurgent activity in the area.
Numerous shuras and meetings with local nationals have confirmed that these patrols have made a significant impact, first against the insurgents who used to operate freely in the area and second on the perceptions of the ability of Afghan forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) to provide security.
The improvements in security have been such that the District Chief of Police, Lieutenant Colonel Shahdi Khan, and the Commanding Officer of Combined Force Nad-e-Ali South, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver Lee, felt the conditions were right for the AUP to take over completely.
The transfer itself took place in a short ceremony attended by Lieutenant Colonel Khan and the Officer Commanding B Company, 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles, Major James Murray.
After a lunch of traditional Gurkha and Afghan food, the respective commanders formalised the hand-over by the Gurkhas donating some hand-made furniture inscribed with kukris to the Afghans, who in turn presented Major Murray with a flag.
Major Murray said: “This is another example of progress in Nad-e-Ali. Across this district as a whole the locals have decisively rejected the insurgents who less than one year ago moved in this area with relative impunity. This result has GIRoA, fronted by the AUP – rather than ISAF - reaching out to the communities of Chah-e-Mirza, and through professional conduct demonstrating a persistent security presence.”
The Gurkhas of B Coy will now move to another checkpoint where they will continue to work alongside other units of AUP across the wider Chah-e-Mirza district.
The Major concluded: “The people here have tasted security and they like it. The bazaars are open, the local school is beginning to flourish and the main road is soon to be black-topped.
“These are real and tangible indicators that GIRoA’s reach is broadening and deepening and there is a real appetite for progress and to build on the gains already made.”